I’ve always been interested in photography but I’ve only been taking it seriously for about a year or so now. I know that as a beginner you can find yourself overwhelmed and feeling inadequate when you start diving into photography. Your photos never seem to measure up to the masterpieces you see all over the internet these days. And you read about the latest great lens or the newest body from Canon or Nikon and you feel like you can’t possibly get to where you want to be without the lastest and greatest gear. That being said, here are 5 simple tips that can help to greatly improve your macro shots.

1. Get CLOSE - When shooting macro don’t think that you have to include your entire subject within the frame. The subject doesn’t always need to be the entire bee or the whole flower but could be just the bee’s eye or a specific petal on the flower. Lean in and find the most interesting parts of your subject and make that your focus.

Macro Daffodil Get as close as you can to your subject. In this case the stamen of the daffodil is the focus rather than the entire flower

2. Turn Off the Auto-Focus - In general, auto-focus on todays cameras works great. Your camera does a pretty good job of figuring out what you’re trying to focus on and adjusts accordingly. This is not always the case with macro photography, however. Because everything you are shooting is at about the same distance from the camera, your autofocus is going to have trouble determining what to focus on. Turn off that auto-focus and move around. It’s much easier to get that tack-sharp image when you control the focus.

3. Don’t Get Caught Up in Gear - We here at The Close-Up Project are pretty geeky about our gear. We love to try out new stuff and can be very particular about our setups at times. As a beginner it’s important to understand that gear doesn’t make a great photo. You can get absolutely gorgeous photos using anything from a 1D to a point-and-shoot or even your cellphone. A lot of cameras have a macro mode that will automatically optimize your depth of field for macro shots. If you do have a DSLR, grab that kit lens. It may not be able to produce 1:1 shots but generally speaking kit lenses can shoot some gorgeous close-ups. If you use what you have and learn to use it well you’re going to be happy with the results.

Macro Greenery This and all the shots in this post were taken with an entry-level Canon T3 and kit lens. All were handheld.

4. Share Your Photographs - When you log onto Google+ or 500px and start scrolling through all the fantastic macro photographs posted by other photographers it’s very easy to feel intimidated. You might feel that your photographs are not worthy of being shared with others. Ignore this temptation to keep your photos to yourself. Put your work out there and ask for advice and critiques. The photography community is always willing to help out others and give constructive criticism and advice. Remember that you are still learning and the best way to learn is to make mistakes. The more you share the more feedback you’ll get and the more you’ll improve as a photographer. And who knows, you may even be surprised to find that some of your peers really love your work!

Crocus Macro You may be surprised by the praise you get when sharing your photos. This can really build confidence.

5. Study the Work of Others and Mimic It - When you’re not able to be out shooting you can always get online and look at the work of other macro photographers. Find shots you like and study them. How did they frame the shot? What was the focal point? How was the shot lit? If you have access to the photographer via social media ask them questions about how they were able to get the shot. Once you’ve done your research go out and try to duplicate the shot. Having a specific end goal in mind before you start will really help you focus on what you need to do to get that particular look.

Photographs in this post